Healing the Inner Child

Understanding and Overcoming Abandonment, Betrayal, Rejection, and Shame Wounds

Our emotional well-being is often shaped by early experiences and the relationships we form in our formative years. The concept of the "inner child" refers to the vulnerable, childlike part of ourselves that holds onto past wounds and experiences. These wounds, particularly the abandonment, betrayal, rejection, and shame wounds, can have profound and lasting impacts on our mental and emotional health. In this blog post, we will delve into each of these wounds, exploring specific examples, how they manifest, and their negative effects. We will also discuss the consequences of carrying these wounds into adulthood and explore how therapy, backed by peer-reviewed studies, can offer a path towards healing and personal growth.

The Abandonment Wound

The abandonment wound is rooted in the fear of being left alone or rejected. It can be triggered by various experiences, such as the physical absence of a caregiver, emotional neglect, or a sudden and unexpected loss. Examples of abandonment include parental divorce, the death of a loved one, or consistent emotional unavailability.


  • Fear of intimacy and forming deep connections.
  • Difficulty trusting others or forming stable relationships.
  • A tendency to push people away to avoid being hurt.

Negative Effects:

  • Increased vulnerability to anxiety and depression.
  • A constant need for external validation.
  • Difficulty in maintaining healthy, long-term relationships.

The Betrayal Wound

Betrayal wounds occur when trust is shattered, often by someone close to us. This can include infidelity, broken promises, or any action that violates the bonds of trust. Betrayal wounds cut deep, leaving individuals questioning their judgment and the reliability of others.


  • Difficulty trusting others, even in non-romantic relationships.
  • A heightened sense of vigilance and suspicion.
  • Self-doubt and questioning one's worth.

Negative Effects:

  • Development of trust issues, leading to difficulties in forming connections.
  • Increased vulnerability to anxiety and depression.
  • Challenges in maintaining a positive self-image.

The Rejection Wound

Rejection wounds stem from experiences where individuals feel unaccepted or unwanted. This could be the result of peer rejection, social exclusion, or even a lack of positive reinforcement from caregivers. Rejection wounds can leave lasting scars on self-esteem and self-worth.


  • Fear of rejection, leading to avoidance of social situations.
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
  • A pattern of seeking constant approval.

Negative Effects:

  • Impaired social functioning and difficulty in forming connections.
  • Increased susceptibility to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Limiting oneself in professional and personal pursuits due to fear of failure.

The Shame Wound

Shame wounds are deeply rooted in feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. These wounds often result from persistent criticism, humiliation, or instances where an individual is made to feel fundamentally flawed.


  • A strong desire to hide one's perceived flaws or mistakes.
  • Difficulty in expressing oneself authentically.
  • Chronic feelings of guilt and self-blame.

Negative Effects:

  • Impaired self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Increased vulnerability to anxiety and depression.
  • A tendency to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors.

Consequences of Carrying Inner Child Wounds into Adulthood

The consequences of carrying these wounds into adulthood are far-reaching, affecting various aspects of life. Individuals with unresolved inner child wounds may struggle with forming and maintaining healthy relationships, experience difficulties in the workplace, and may engage in self-destructive behaviours as a coping mechanism. These wounds can also contribute to the development of mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Healing through Therapy: Evidence-Based Approaches

Therapy offers a safe and supportive environment for individuals to explore and heal their inner child wounds.

1. Attachment Theory Understanding: Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby, emphasises the impact of early relationships on emotional development. Therapists using attachment theory help clients explore and understand their attachment patterns, fostering a sense of security and trust. By examining how early attachments influence current relationships, individuals can develop healthier connections.

2. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT):  EFT focuses on the emotional bonds within relationships, helping individuals recognise and express their emotions to build secure connections. In the context of betrayal wounds, EFT can assist in rebuilding trust and understanding the underlying emotions that contribute to the healing process.

3. Self-Compassion-Based Therapy:  Self-compassion-based therapy, rooted in the work of Kristin Neff, encourages individuals to treat themselves with kindness and understanding. This approach helps clients develop a more positive and compassionate relationship with themselves, counteracting the negative self-talk associated with rejection wounds.

4. Internal Family Systems (IFS):  IFS, developed by Richard Schwartz, views the mind as composed of different "parts" that interact within the individual. Therapists using IFS guide clients in exploring and understanding these internal parts, helping to transform shame into self-compassion by acknowledging and healing the wounded parts.

5. Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy explores the root causes of emotional and behavioral patterns, helping clients make connections between past experiences and current challenges. By gaining insight into the origins of their wounds, individuals can work towards resolution and healing.


Understanding and healing inner child wounds is a transformative journey that can lead to improved emotional well-being and a more fulfilling life. By acknowledging the impact of abandonment, betrayal, rejection, and shame wounds, individuals can take the first step towards breaking free from the cycle of negative patterns and fostering a sense of self-compassion.

Therapy, backed by evidence-based approaches, provides a roadmap for individuals to explore, understand, and ultimately release the grip of these wounds. Through the therapeutic process, individuals can learn to nurture and reparent their inner child, fostering resilience, self-love, and the capacity for meaningful connections in adulthood.

Crystal Hardstaff, The Gentle Counsellor, provides a safe haven for healing and understanding. With expertise in Trauma, Attachment Theory, Perinatal Mental Health, and Parenting Support, Crystal offers individual and couple counselling sessions, guiding you through a journey of healing and growth.

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Are you seeking a safe space where your feelings and experiences are not only heard but deeply understood? I'm here to guide you through your journey of healing and growth. With my specialisations in Trauma, Attachment Theory, Perinatal Mental Health, and Parenting Support, I offer individual and couple counselling sessions that address your unique needs.

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